View of the San Diego harbor and skyline. Courtesy Port of San Diego

The final draft of a feasibility study released Wednesday found that the city could to meet its goal of 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035 by selling power directly to citizens.

Using only renewable energy is a key part of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan, and it would be possible through a Community Choice Aggregate (CCA) program, the study found.

CCA is a program established by state law allowing local governments to purchase electricity on behalf of customers within their jurisdiction. In San Diego it would be a government-run alternative to San Diego Gas & Electric.

The most common reasons for forming a CCA program are to increase the use of renewable energy, maintain control over rate setting, lower rates and stimulate economic growth, according to the Local Government Commission, a national policy organization.

According to the feasibility study released Wednesday, which was commissioned by the City Council last year and completed by Willdan Financial Services and EnerNex, a CCA in San Diego would meet those goals.

The study found a CCA would be feasible to meet the city’s Climate Action Plan thresholds on reducing greenhouse gases and achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2035; maintain SDG&E’s current price rates in the near term and lowering those rates in the long term; and have a substantial positive impact on local jobs by 2035.

“We’re moving full speed ahead to reach our ultimate goal of using 100 percent renewable energy citywide, and this study shows we have the ability to get there,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said.

“This analysis underscores that San Diego’s Climate Action Plan is not only ambitious, it’s achievable.”

The CCA is just one possible option for the city to meet its renewable energy goals, though the only one that has been studied for feasibility. Over the last half of this year, the City Council will seek other possible options, with a goal of making a decision in early 2018.

“We now have at least one option to completely power San Diego with green energy, and over the coming weeks and months we will look at other options, put all the alternatives on the table and have a public discussion about the best approach to ensure reasonable rates for San Diegans and a sustainable future for our city,” Faulconer said.

San Diego Chief Sustainability Officer Cody Hooven said the study keeps the city on track with its Climate Action Plan.

“We are proud that San Diegans can start seeing options to meet our ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions through renewable energy,” Hooven said.

The climate watchdog organization Climate Action Campaign planned to hold a news conference Thursday to discuss the study, but in a statement said the “results are positive.”

Meanwhile, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association urged city leaders not to rush into a CCA, calling it “premature to enter into a government-controlled energy model without knowing the true costs to taxpayers, which are still being debated by state regulators.”

“It is important that our leaders tackle climate change in a cost-effective manner,” said Haney Hong, president and CEO of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association.

“Climate Action Plans are created to achieve important environmental targets, and we should weigh costs against benefits when considering a policy to achieve those targets. Policies should be chosen based on taxpayer protections and the greatest return on investment of taxpayer dollars, not what sounds sexy or is politically convenient.”

The feasibility study found that a CCA could both help the city reach its renewable energy goal and keep prices below SDG&E’s projected rates.

–City News Service

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